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8 Best Traffic Analysis Tools

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8 Best Traffic Analysis Tools

Monitoring your website traffic is one of the best ways to make data-driven decisions on how effectively your marketing campaigns and messaging work.

Moreover, checking out your competitors’ website traffic can help you identify areas for improvement on your own site. 

In this article, we will look at the top eight traffic analysis tools, what we like about them, and some tips on how to get the most out of each tool. 

You need different tools depending on whether you want insights into your own traffic or someone else’s. If it’s the latter, head to the sixth tool on the list (using our sidebar). 

Probably the most used and best-known traffic analysis tool available, Google Analytics is a tool that probably every website owner should be using.

It can track acquisition reports to find out how users get to the site, audience reports to better tailor experiences to different groups, and conversion reports to keep an eye on goals or events.

Google Analytics

It also offers real-time tracking so viewers can see how many active users there are.

Benefits

Some of the top things we like about Google Analytics include:

  • Managing more than one property under a single account.
  • Extensive reporting on traffic, engagement, and conversions.
  • Allowing for audience segmentation for Google Ads remarketing campaigns.

How to use it

  • First, sign up for a Google Analytics account (if you don’t have one).
  • You need to add the tracking code for Google Analytics to your website. This code will collect data about the individuals visiting your website and then send it to the account you have set up for Google Analytics.
  • Google Analytics will begin collecting data about your website as soon as the tracking code is installed and activated on the site.

One of the most useful (but often underutilized) detailed reports in Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the Path Exploration Overview.

Go to Explore > Path Exploration.

This is a custom report (you’ll need to set it to use it in a way that works best for you), but it can be extremely useful!

The report allows you to see the specific path users take to get to specified URLs on your website. Or what’s often more helpful—review a reverse path, i.e., see how users got to a specific conversion point, for example. 

GA4 Path Exploration example

Pricing

Google Analytics is 100% free. Yet, its features still manage to rival a number of premium tools. 

One of the most widely used and essential traffic analysis tools is Google Search Console. It is a free service provided by Google that allows website owners to monitor and optimize their sites visibility in search engine results.

Checking performance of web search clicks on Google Search Console

It lets you see the number of clicks, impressions, average position, and click-through rate (CTR) for each page on your website.

Benefits

  • Provides detailed data on organic clicks, impressions, and click-through rate (CTR)
  • Allows you to identify and fix technical issues that could be affecting your website’s performance in the SERPs
  • Shows the keywords that are driving traffic to your website with their search volume and positions

How to use it

  • First, sign in to Search Console with your Google account.
  • You should see a “welcome” message with two options. Select the first one, then enter your domain or subdomain (without the http(s)://).
  • Lastly, verify your domain, and Search Console will start gathering data.

One of the best things about Google Search Console (in terms of analyzing traffic) is that you can see which of your pages are losing traffic. That means you know which pages are a priority when it comes to updating and optimizing your content.

You can do this by going to the Performance report, then adding a date range comparison to see stats for the past six months compared to the previous six months. Turn off “Impressions,” as you only need to focus on clicks; then click on “Pages.”

Sort the report by “Clicks Difference” in ascending order to see the pages with the biggest traffic drops.

Sorting pages by clicks difference in GSC

Pricing

Google Search Console is also completely free. 

Ahrefs Webmaster Tools is a powerful, free SEO tool that analyzes traffic and monitors the SEO health of your website.

Ahrefs Webmaster Tools

It provides valuable insights that can help website owners understand and analyze their websites traffic patterns and the keywords that drive the most traffic to their sites. 

Benefits

  • Monitors and tracks your website’s organic search traffic
  • Tracks the keywords that drive traffic to your website and lets you get insights into their SEO data
  • Identifies which sites compete for the same keywords as yours
  • Comes with other helpful SEO features (backlink analysis and technical site auditing) 

How to use it

  • Sign up for an Ahrefs Webmaster Tools account
  • Add your website as a project 
  • Confirm ownership of your site either by importing from GSC or with a DNS record, HTML file, or HTML tag

The best thing about Ahrefs Webmaster Tools is that it shows you all of the keywords you rank for rather than just the top 1,000 like Google Search Console.

It also gives you more data that you can use to find ways to increase your traffic. By identifying high-volume keywords where you already rank in positions #4–#10, you can focus your efforts on improving their rankings.

Keyword positions example

Plus, you can find keywords with featured snippets where you rank in the top five but not in the snippet; then, optimize for them accordingly.

Finding featured snippet opportunities using AWT

Pricing

Ahrefs Webmaster Tools is free for website owners.

Mixpanel provides insights into user behavior on a website or mobile app, allowing product teams to determine how different user groups interact with their services. 

You can track individual users or whole companies and watch how they convert over time by using segmentation. This makes upselling and targeted selling based on customer preferences more viable.

Mixpanel setup page

You can also view graphic trends on when and how customers interact with the products or services, thanks to Mixpanel. 

Benefits

  • Offers user cohorts that assist you in analyzing user behavior and its effects
  • Allows analysis of behavioral data collectively using Mixpanel’s group analytics to determine account- or business-level metrics
  • Drop-off analysis identifies friction points and where users get stuck

How to use it

  • Sign up for a Mixpanel account and verify your email address
  • Go through the setup process following the steps and connect your website or app
  • Customize your dashboard with the insights you need

Mixpanel’s emphasis on individual user behavior and ability to track and analyze user interactions at a detailed level are probably its best features. 

Based on the distinctive features of your website or app, you can define custom events and properties and track the metrics that are most important to your company.

Mixpanel custom events

Pricing

Mixpanel has a free Starter option with limited tracking and exports, allowing for five users. There is then a Growth plan starting from $20 per month and an Enterprise plan starting from $833 per month.

Microsoft Clarity is designed to help you understand the behavior of visitors to your website. 

It provides access to heatmaps and session recordings that show how people interact with your website, including what they click on and where they spend their time. 

Heatmaps allow you to gain insights into user engagement, interactions with widgets, and design changes. As well as seeing potential issues such as dead clicks and rage clicks (when someone thinks an element should be clickable and keeps hitting it to open). 

Microsoft Clarity dashboard

The visualized data also allows you to identify potential problems in user navigation or usability so that you can take corrective action as needed.

Benefits

  • Lets you manage multiple properties under one account
  • Provides detailed heatmaps and session recordings of how your traffic interacts with your site
  • Advises you on UX errors such as Javascript issues or dead buttons

How to use it

  • Sign in to Microsoft Clarity with your Microsoft or Google account
  • Add the domain you want to track as a “New Project” and add the tracking code to your website
  • Add the tracking code and confirm it; the tool will start pulling in data from your site

One of the best things about Clarity is that you can get real-time data into how your site is being used through live recordings. The tool will notify you when users are online and allow you to watch their session as it happens. 

Microsoft Clarity live sessions

Pricing

Microsoft Clarity is completely free. It rivals several competing premium tools, offering almost identical features without the cost.

Note

The next few tools we are going to look at are best used for checking out traffic for a site you don’t own. 

With Ahrefs’ free traffic checker, you can quickly check organic traffic generated by any website or page. No strings attached. You can do it an unlimited number of times and don’t need to set up an account.

Ahrefs' free website traffic checker

Benefits

  • Lets you get an estimate of any website or page site traffic 
  • Provides a list of top pages and keywords driving traffic to the website
  • Identifies which countries drive the most traffic

How to use it

Ever stumbled across a site and wondered how much organic traffic it gets? 

With this free tool, you can see whether a given site has been increasing or decreasing in traffic and what its traffic value is (based on ranking keywords).

Organic traffic trend of a website

If you use the tool on a specific page, you can quickly see if it gets organic traffic and which keywords you’ll need to target to create SEO content on the same topic. 

Top keywords of a specified URL

Pricing

Ahrefs’ free traffic checker is 100% free.

Ahrefs’ Site Explorer is a powerful traffic analysis tool that provides in-depth insights into the organic traffic of any website and its paid search ads. 

Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Benefits

The tool lets you:

  • See any page’s organic keywords with premium SEO data like ranking history.
  • Analyze your competitors’ site structures to see how different sections contribute to the overall SEO. 
  • View the pages that receive the most traffic from search engines and the keywords they are ranking for.
  • Perform a content gap analysis in a few clicks. 
  • Find out if your competitors are using paid search advertising, what copy they’re using, and where they are sending their traffic.
  • Do much more. The tool comes as part of Ahrefs’ all-in-one SEO toolkit, which includes a number of robust SEO tools.

How to use it

  • Sign up for an Ahrefs account
  • Go to Site Explorer and enter the URL of the website you want insights on

With this tool, you’re tapped into industry-leading SEO data through an interface that’s designed with competitive analysis in mind. 

For example, you can jump right into a competitor’s top-performing content in any country using the Top pages report. From there, you can see what keywords they target and how they’ve been performing with time.

Countries dropdown in Top pages report

Or you can use Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool to see which topics you haven’t covered but your competitors have.

Ahrefs' Content Gap tool

Pricing

Ahrefs has four pricing plans designed to suit anyone from individual site owners, to marketers, to large agencies. 

Ahrefs’ Lite account starts at $99 per month for access to the basic features in Site Explorer. Standard accounts, which include advanced Site Explorer features like the Content Gap, Broken Links, and Link Intersect reports, start at $199 per month.

There are also Advanced and Enterprise plans with additional features and extended data available for $399 and $999 monthly, respectively. 

Similarweb is a platform that tracks your market share, benchmarks, trends, and traffic analysis. 

It’s a popular choice for a quick traffic spot check, but it also offers premium features and data. 

Similarweb

Benefits

  • Offers free traffic lookup across different channels with additional data points (such as audience insight)
  • Allows you to compare two websites across channels 
  • Has many more features in premium plans 

How to use it

Here’s the thing about Similarweb:

In reality, there is probably no better tool for getting detailed traffic analytics data across different channels for a site you don’t own. 

Unlike other tools that can give you an overall traffic number, Similarweb will give you details such as bounce rate, pages per visit, etc. 

This is great for detailed comparisons between your own site and a competitor. It also comes in useful when checking out a site you are considering buying. 

But you should take the metrics provided with a pinch of salt. From experience, Similarweb’s traffic numbers are pretty all over the place. 

For example, here are Similarweb’s traffic metrics for a new testing site I have:

Similarweb's metrics for a website

Now here are the same metrics in GA4:

GSC's metrics for a website

As you can see, the numbers in Similarweb are significantly overestimated. Therefore, keep this in mind, especially if you are using it to check out how traffic is trending for a site you want to buy.

Pricing

Similarweb is the most expensive tool, starting from $125 per user, per month with limited tracking and historical data. 

You can, however, use its free website analysis tool to check out limited traffic data about any website.

Frequently asked questions about traffic analysis tools. 

How do traffic analysis tools work?

Website traffic analysis tools give detailed information about the people who visit your website.

The main metrics monitored by these tools include:

  • Visits and sessions – How many times your website was visited during a specific time frame (for example, the previous 30 days).
  • Traffic sources – How someone arrived on your site. This can be direct (typed your URL), organic (from search engines), social (clicked a link on a social media platform), and referral (clicked a link to your site on another site).
  • Page views – How many times visitors viewed a page on your website.
  • Unique visits – The number of individuals who visited your website. For example, you may have 1,000 visits, but only 100 may be unique. If the same person visits your website multiple times, they count as one unique visit.
  • Bounce rate The percentage of people who left your site after visiting only one page.
  • Conversion rate – The percentage of people who completed a set action, such as made a purchase or booked a call.
  • Average time on page – How long users spend on a specific page on average.
  • Demographics – Details about the people who visited your website. For example, age, gender, their interests, etc.
  • Device and location data – This lets you know which devices people have accessed your website from (desktop/mobile) and the geographical areas they visited from.

Why use traffic analysis tools?

With data from traffic analysis tools, you can figure out what is working and what needs work.

One key benefit is understanding a website’s most popular content, pages, or entry points. These insights can help publishers prioritize creating content that gets more attention from readers.

Why should you check your competitors’ website traffic?

You can use your competitors’ traffic to benchmark your own performance and uncover opportunities for growth and expansion.

For example, if you find that they are receiving a significant amount of traffic from a specific source or targeting specific keywords, you can consider doing the same. 

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Why Now’s The Time To Adopt Schema Markup

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Why Now's The Time To Adopt Schema Markup

There is no better time for organizations to prioritize Schema Markup.

Why is that so, you might ask?

First of all, Schema Markup (aka structured data) is not new.

Google has been awarding sites that implement structured data with rich results. If you haven’t taken advantage of rich results in search, it’s time to gain a higher click-through rate from these visual features in search.

Secondly, now that search is primarily driven by AI, helping search engines understand your content is more important than ever.

Schema Markup allows your organization to clearly articulate what your content means and how it relates to other things on your website.

The final reason to adopt Schema Markup is that, when done correctly, you can build a content knowledge graph, which is a critical enabler in the age of generative AI. Let’s dig in.

Schema Markup For Rich Results

Schema.org has been around since 2011. Back then, Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex worked together to create the standardized Schema.org vocabulary to enable website owners to translate their content to be understood by search engines.

Since then, Google has incentivized websites to implement Schema Markup by awarding rich results to websites with certain types of markup and eligible content.

Websites that achieve these rich results tend to see higher click-through rates from the search engine results page.

In fact, Schema Markup is one of the most well-documented SEO tactics that Google tells you to do. With so many things in SEO that are backward-engineered, this one is straightforward and highly recommended.

You might have delayed implementing Schema Markup due to the lack of applicable rich results for your website. That might have been true at one point, but I’ve been doing Schema Markup since 2013, and the number of rich results available is growing.

Even though Google deprecated how-to rich results and changed the eligibility of FAQ rich results in August 2023, it introduced six new rich results in the months following – the most new rich results introduced in a year!

These rich results include vehicle listing, course info, profile page, discussion forum, organization, vacation rental, and product variants.

There are now 35 rich results that you can use to stand out in search, and they apply to a wide range of industries such as healthcare, finance, and tech.

Here are some widely applicable rich results you should consider utilizing:

  • Breadcrumb.
  • Product.
  • Reviews.
  • JobPosting.
  • Video.
  • Profile Page.
  • Organization.

With so many opportunities to take control of how you appear in search, it’s surprising that more websites haven’t adopted it.

A statistic from Web Data Commons’ October 2023 Extractions Report showed that only 50% of pages had structured data.

Of the pages with JSON-LD markup, these were the top types of entities found.

  • http://schema.org/ListItem (2,341,592,788 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/ImageObject (1,429,942,067 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/Organization (907,701,098 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/BreadcrumbList (817,464,472 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/WebSite (712,198,821 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/WebPage (691,208,528 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/Offer (623,956,111 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/SearchAction (614,892,152 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/Person (582,460,344 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/EntryPoint (502,883,892 Entities)

(Source: October 2023 Web Data Commons Report)

Most of the types on the list are related to the rich results mentioned above.

For example, ListItem and BreadcrumbList are required for the Breadcrumb Rich Result, SearchAction is required for Sitelink Search Box, and Offer is required for the Product Rich Result.

This tells us that most websites are using Schema Markup for rich results.

Even though these Schema.org types can help your site achieve rich results and stand out in search, they don’t necessarily tell search engines what each page is about in detail and help your site be more semantic.

Help AI Search Engines Understand Your Content

Have you ever seen your competitor’s sites using specific Schema.org Types that are not found in Google’s structured data documentation (i.e. MedicalClinic, IndividualPhysician, Service, etc)?

The Schema.org vocabulary has over 800 types and properties to help websites explain what the page is about. However, Google’s structured data features only require a small subset of these properties for websites to be eligible for a rich result.

Many websites that solely implement Schema Markup to get rich results tend to be less descriptive with their Schema Markup.

AI search engines now look at the meaning and intent behind your content to provide users with more relevant search results.

Therefore, organizations that want to stay ahead should use more specific Schema.org types and leverage appropriate properties to help search engines better understand and contextualize their content. You can be descriptive with your content while still achieving rich results.

For example, each type (e.g. Article, Person, etc.) in the Schema.org vocabulary has 40 or more properties to describe the entity.

The properties are there to help you fully describe what the page is about and how it relates to other things on your website and the web. In essence, it’s asking you to describe the entity or topic of the page semantically.

The word ‘semantic’ is about understanding the meaning of language.

Note that the word “understanding” is part of the definition. Funny enough, in October 2023, John Mueller at Google released a Search Update video. In this six-minute video, he leads with an update on Schema Markup.

For the first time, Mueller described Schema Markup as “a code you can add to your web pages, which search engines can use to better understand the content. ”

While Mueller has historically spoken a lot about Schema Markup, he typically talked about it in the context of rich result eligibility. So, why the change?

This shift in thinking about Schema Markup for enhanced search engine understanding makes sense. With AI’s growing role and influence in search, we need to make it easy for search engines to consume and understand the content.

Take Control Of AI By Shaping Your Data With Schema Markup

Now, if being understood and standing out in search is not a good enough reason to get started, then doing it to help your enterprise take control of your content and prepare it for artificial intelligence is.

In February 2024, Gartner published a report on “30 Emerging Technologies That Will Guide Your Business Decisions,”  highlighting generative AI and knowledge graphs as critical emerging technologies companies should invest in within the next 0-1 years.

Knowledge graphs are collections of relationships between entities defined using a standardized vocabulary that enables new knowledge to be gained by way of inferencing.

Good news! When you implement Schema Markup to define and connect the entities on your site, you are creating a content knowledge graph for your organization.

Thus, your organization gains a critical enabler for generative AI adoption while reaping its SEO benefits.

Learn more about building content knowledge graphs in my article, Extending Your Schema Markup From Rich Results to Knowledge Graphs.

We can also look at other experts in the knowledge graph field to understand the urgency of implementing Schema Markup.

In his LinkedIn post, Tony Seale, Knowledge Graph Architect at UBS in the UK, said,

“AI does not need to happen to you; organizations can shape AI by shaping their data.

It is a choice: We can allow all data to be absorbed into huge ‘data gravity wells’ or we can create a network of networks, each of us connecting and consolidating our data.”

The “networks of networks” Seale refers to is the concept of knowledge graphs – the same knowledge graph that can be built from your web data using semantic Schema Markup.”

The AI revolution has only just begun, and there is no better time than now to shape your data, starting with your web content through the implementation of Schema Markup.

Use Schema Markup As The Catalyst For AI

In today’s digital landscape, organizations must invest in new technology to keep pace with the evolution of AI and search.

Whether your goal is to stand out on the SERP or ensure your content is understood as intended by Google and other search engines, the time to implement Schema Markup is now.

With Schema Markup, SEO pros can become heroes, enabling generative AI adoption through content knowledge graphs while delivering tangible benefits, such as increased click-through rates and improved search visibility.

More resources: 


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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


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